the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for November 2019

Woohoo, it’s almost the weekend!

 

What are you up to this weekend? What are you planning to read?  Planning to watch anything cool on TV or listen to any audiobooks or podcasts?  Did you have any luck with Disney+?

 

I’ve been enjoying all the #SciFiMonth posts and twittering, it’s just a super nice happy group.

 

What have I been reading?

I’ve been reading Renegade’s Magic by Robin Hobb. This is the last book in her Soldier Son trilogy.  I started reading this trilogy I dunno, 8 years ago? maybe longer ago?  I had a too-intense reaction to the 2nd book and couldn’t even pick up a Robin Hobb for a long time.

(side bar – when authors book their books out into the wild, they have ZERO control over how people react to them.  Have you ever had an unexpected emotional reaction to a book?  What happened)

it’s been long enough, I’m ready to finish this series.  Luckily, there is some helpful background early on in Renegade’s Magic to fill me in on earlier details that I’ve forgotten.   Unluckily, the book is just so-so.  Nevare and his alter-ego are sharing his body, and Nevare needs to decide if he’s going to try to stay his separate self, or if he’s going to merge with his alter-ego so that the two of them can become whole.  Ok, so I can tell you right now that this book is going to end with him merging back with himself, because Robin Hobb books are pretty much about facing the part of you that you are ashamed of, and accepting that part of yourself.  But does that mean I’ve got 500 pages in front of me of Nevare trying to decide if he’s going to merge with himself or not?

I’m impatient.

Because I have a copy of Derek Kunsken’s The Quantum Garden and I really, really, REALLY want to be reading that!!

I predict I will set Renegade’s Magic down as a “read some other time”, and gleefully pick up The Quantum Garden.  oh wait, do I want to reread The Quantum Magician first?  I want toooo!!!!!!   That book is definitely one of my favorite reads this year, but William!  i don’t know if I can go through that again!

 

 

What have I been watching?

 

I had a four day weekend last weekend so I binge watched Maniac on Netflix.   This is not a good show, but it has moments of  brilliance.  It is trying to be sort of Philip K Dick-ish?  Where some characters aren’t sure what is reality and what isn’t.  And like a lot of PKD novels, about 1/3 of the way through, what plot there is, it goes out the window.

 

The show takes place in a near-future alternate Earth. No cell phones, but other technologies exist that are supposed to make life easier.  Someone had some fun designing sets and architecture and such.

Don’t watch this show for the plot, because there really isn’t one. Do watch it for the batshit crazy acting.  Emma Stone is her as always amazing self,  Jonah Hill is subtle and compelling, and I’m pretty sure they just told Justin Theroux to be as intense and insane as possible, and chew as much scenery as possible.  Did people expect that Theroux would steal every scene he’s in?

 

seriously.  Justin Theroux, just watch this show for him.

 

What have I been listening to?

I’m enjoying This Podcast Will Kill You.  I’m a jerk and listening to the episodes in any order I damn please.  Listening to the Cystic Fibrosis episode was fascinating (chlorides! protein channels! big bags of fluid!), educational, and humbling.  If you like science (and what scifi fan doesn’t like science?) and think biology and infectious diseases is cool, this is the podcast for you.

What have I been cooking?

I took what has become my favorite gluten free bread recipe and accidentally wrecked it. Bought some buckwheat flour on a whim, and by the way the buckwheat pancakes were delicious.  I figured the GF bread recipe would work just fine if I swapped half the 1to1 GF flour buckwheat.  hahahaha NO.  the bread smells good, looks kinda weird, and tastes really dry.   I learned my lesson! guess I’ll have to just enjoy delicious buckwheat pancakes and not use it in bread.

 

How about you? what have you been up to?

 

What’s your favorite science fiction theme, asked another SciFi Month participant.

Without a doubt, my favorite science fiction theme is First Contact. What will we say to aliens when we meet them? How will we communicate? How will we be understood? What if they are incomprehensible?

I really dig the “communication” part of first contact stories. Of course we’re going to try to talk to aliens! Of course we will wildly misinterpret everything they say! And of course we have the ego and the hubris to have no idea that we are misinterpreting everything, because the first time a xenobiologist or xenolinguist admits they are “approaching this problem with the mind of student”, some idiot will say “are you saying you’re too dumb to be here?” and that will be the end of the conversation and the beginning of the misinterpretation.  More on the tip of that iceberg at the end of the post.

 

Anyway, I love me some first contact stories, and if they touch on language, all the better!

If you like that too, here are some recommendations that may be of interest to you.

 

Arrival – When aliens arrive and start giving us their written language, a linguistics professor is brought in to translate. What she sees makes no sense, and when the symbols are finally translated, it is more than just language and sentences. She’s literally able to see the events of her life in a new, and sometimes frightening way. This movie is based on the short story “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. I’m a sucker for visuals and effective pacing, and I have a major thing for linguistics. I enjoyed the short story and LOVED the movie.

 

Babel 17 by Samuel Delany – All the linguistics fun of Arrival, plus a bucket of super cool characters, a wild adventure, and smart people talking about smart things. Did I mention the main character is a poet? I vaguely remember in the movie Contact, there is a line “they should have sent a poet”. Well, Delany did. You’ll like this one, I promise.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – are you in the read-along for this? What do you think so far? Yeah there is aliens in this book and first contact! The Sparrow is probably the most unexpected first contact book ever written. It’s weird, because we don’t actually learn much about the aliens. Well, we see a lot, and figure out a lot of what their saying, but it always seemed to me that what the humans had so much trouble with was the paying attention and actually listening part. So in a way, they do learn, only after it is too late.

 

Defenders by Will McIntosh – so, we meet aliens, and they can read our minds. We don’t quite understand their invasion or what they want, so humans make the group decision to freak the hell out. We design and build cyborgs to protect us. And then we win the war against the alien invaders. So what to do with all these cyborgs, who have been programmed to protect against an invader that isn’t a threat anymore? I appreciate that McIntosh talks about the aftermath of a failed alien invasion.

 

District 9 – When the aliens visit, their mothership hovers above Johannesburg, and doesn’t move. Nothing happens for months. When our military cuts into the ship, we find starving creatures, so we “rescue” them. And put them in a “refugee camp”. It gets so much worse and more dehumanizing from there. Every time I see this movie it is harder to watch, because I know what’s coming. And every time I watch this movie I enjoy it more, because maybe there’s hope that humans won’t always be shit heads.

Blindsight by Peter Watts – just an excellent book, all around. This was the book that got me turned on to the idea that humans think we are really good at communication, but we are actually quite terrible at it. The aliens lurking at the edge of solar system might really not want to talk to us. Or, in a weird way, maybe they are just saying hello? There’s probably no way to know. If you like edge of your seat scifi thrillers, this is the book for you. Also, scientifically possible vampires.

 

The Visitors by Clifford Simak – I just read this last week! The most peaceful alien invasion story I’ve ever read. The aliens come, and they just sit in the woods and in some farms. They literally just sit there. They eat some trees. A few cars accidentally get eaten. The aliens don’t talk to us, they don’t communicate at all (or do they?). Before leaving they give us a gift, something they think we will enjoy having. It is a gift that could destroy our civilization as we know it. At first, I thought these kind aliens were giving me a “yes, there really is a free lunch!” type story, and then when I got to the end of the book I realize that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

 

Have you read any of these books or seen any of these movies? What did you think of them?

What are some of your favorite first contact books and movies?

 

 

What fascinates me about First Contact stories, is that when it comes down to it, those stories are not about the aliens. They aren’t about how humans will interact with, communicate with, be judgy about, or be accepting of aliens. First contact stories are a mirror for how we interact with each other. They mirror how we communicate with each other, how we judge each other, how we accept (or don’t. Or eventually come to accept) anyone who is different from us.  Like many science fiction themes,  First Contact stories show how humans can normalize certain types of reactions to anything that is new, or different from what we are used to.

I don’t know if it’s brilliant or depressing that we need science fiction to show us that humans have a habit of being assholes to each other.

Hello and happy November!    I hope everyone has recovered from eating too much candy  on Halloween, and that your yards are full of beautiful autumn leaves.  Even when it’s cloudy and gloomy,  the sherbet oranges, pear-y yellows, and luscious crimsons in my front yard make every day this  time of year feel technicolor.

 

What’s all going on, you ask?  Only everything!   The hardest part is deciding what to say Yes to! (actually, you don’t have to say Yes to anything. You can be like me this year, and lurk!)

 

November is Sci-Fi Month, hosted by Dear Geek Place (twitter: @deargeekplace )  and Always Room For One More (twitter: @imyril).  I’ve know these bloggers for years, and everything they do is fun, engaging, and no pressure.  Looking to meet more bloggers who like talking about the same things you do? Sci-Fi Month is a great way to do it.  Follow all the fun @SciFiMonth.

SciFiMonth has not one, but two read alongs planned!  Dear Geek Place and Jorie Loves a Story are co-hosting a read along of Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers,  and Imyril at Always Room for One More is hosting a read along of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.  The Sparrow is one of my all time favorite books – the only problem with that book is that you can only experience it the first time once.  That said, no matter how times I have reread it,  the ending never loses it’s power to knock me flat.  I WILL be lurking in the read along of The Sparrow!

 

You’ve got the month of December off,  for family holiday stuff,  24 hours Christmas movie marathons and such, and then it’s time for Vintage Science Fiction Month in January! (twitter:  @VintageSciFiMonth)

I’ve been involved with Vintage Science Fiction month for I have lost track of how many years now.  Thank goodness for Jacob at Red Star Reviews for being my co-host again this year!  Jacob has tirelessly promoted Vintage Science Fiction Month on Instagram and Youtube, saving this elderly blogger from having to learn yet more social medial platforms.

 

My involvement with Vintage Month this year will involve a lot of short opinion pieces, links to Vintage goodies around the ‘blogosphere, and links to articles that can give some context to the whole thing, including this guest post I wrote a few weeks ago.   And if you prefer your science fiction a little on the scary side, there’s an excellent post over at Kaedrin’s blog about the intersection of horror and vintage scifi.

 

So, that should keep you busy for the next few months!

 

What have I been up to lately?

It’s been slow going with Steven Brust’s The Phoenix Guards.  it’s not the book, it’s me. I just don’t have the patience for this particular book right now.  Also? I think I’m just not that into The Three Musketeers.  #sorrynotsorry

 

Looking for something scifi-y, but not dark and terrible, I picked up The Visitors by Clifford Simak.  Huge Black boxes from space (monoliths.  they’re monoliths) land all over North America.  They mostly just sit there, doing nothing.  A bunch of them start eating trees,  a few cars get eaten.  but the aliens don’t interact with people, don’t seem to want to interact with people, but will defend themselves. Some of the monoliths have baby monoliths.  This book is very peaceful.  The plot follows some government advisors to the President, some local newspaper reporters, and a grad student who gets a little too close to one of the monoliths.  It’s just so very peaceful.  It’s exactly what i need in my life right now.

 

I’m enjoying the “This Podcast will Kill you” podcast.  it’s about poisons? and biology? I think?  I like the two ladies who do the ‘cast,  they communicate high concept science stuff in a way that I can understand.  Listening to this podcast helps me feel smart.  I think if I had a chance to be 19 again, and decide a college major again, I’d choose the biology one that teaches you how the inside of your body works.  Cuz, like, I really like understanding more about that!  Why do I get bloated? when my tummy is “rumbling”, what’s really happening in there?  Why does a pulled muscle hurt? how does a paper cut heal?  when I’m sick, where the hell does all this snot even come from?

 

On that gross note, yes, there has been tons of delicious food happening in my house lately!  Husband made me an amazing Avgolemono soup, it is Greek lemon chicken and rice soup that is thickened with egg.  The whole thing came together in about 30 minutes, and it was amazing!

 

there is gluten free bread in the oven right now, I’m trying a recipe from this America’s Test Kitchen Gluten Free cookbook.  We were wanting a multi-grain GF bread that had lots of flavor, seeds, and was low salt. and who knew?  with yeast breads, the less salt you have, the higher of a rise you’ll get!  Bread should be ready to eat at dinner time tonight, i’ll let you know how it turned out.

I’ve got a whole chicken sitting in the fridge, waiting to be covered in butter, herbs, and spices. I can’t decide if I want to go the traditional parsley, celery, salt route, or go the Chinese five spice with star anise route.  I do have all that star anise.   We might end up with with PSL chicken for dinner.

And I’ve been thinking lately, instead of asking myself “what do I wanna eat?” I should be asking myself “how do I want to feel in an hour?”

 

What reading, cooking, and autumn-y activities have you been up to lately? What fun stuff is on your schedule? What are you reading? Watching anything cool on TV?

 

What’s with all this lurking about?

i’ve been lurking online lately. Barely blogging, not posting formal book reviews, not participating in read alongs or themed months or really anything.  What the hell is that all about??  Put plainly, my life is busy these days.  I love my day job, and it’s busy AF. I have a long commute.  Yes, yes, I am aware that i have the same 24 hours in every day that Beyonce has, but 11 of those hours are spent working/commuting to work, 7 of those hours are spent trying to get some damn sleep.  With other things going on in my life, I am spread too thin to be saying Yes to everything under the sun. What it comes down to is that I’m putting me before you, and saying “yes” to literally as little as possible.  #no_regrets.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.